MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. – The 2014 season may not have ended in the way he wanted, but Diego Valeri is looking to bounce back in a big way with the Portland Timbers in 2015.
The Argentine playmaker, who tore his ACL on the final day of the season against FC Dallas, is progressing in his rehab and considers his second season in MLS a learning experience for the team.
“Every year is different,” Valeri told assembled reporters at MLS’ media day on Tuesday. “We are a team that is growing up every single game that we play. We need to learn, we need some different experiences – obviously if you are winning, your experience is much better. But you need to learn from everything. So I think it was good that the last two years was different because that makes us a strong team.”
Valeri’s first season in Portland in 2013 was largely positive for the Timbers, as they reached the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time in club history, qualified for the CONCACAF Champions League and finished atop the Western Conference during the regular season. Valeri followed that up with a 2014 season that saw him earn his second straight MLS Best XI inclusion as well as a 2014 MLS All-Star nod playing in front of his hometown fans against Bayern Munich. With 11 goals and 14 assists on the year, it put Valeri in the running for for MLS MVP over the second half of the season.
Though he admitted he’s found rehab on his knee boring, Valeri said he’s halfway through the process and should begin running again soon.
In returning from the major injury, the Designated Player cited two factors in coming back successfully: Getting back into a playing rhythm and to “feel good” in trusting his repaired knee.
While his absence will be felt into the coming season, Valeri was not worried about the prospect of getting integrated back into the lineup upon his return.
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“I will be good, because I’ve been playing [for the Timbers] for two years,” he said. “The same players, we maintain a base. So I will be good. I think I won’t need an [adjustment period]. And hopefully I will be much better than before.”
With the Timbers ambitions remaining high, Valeri was asked what they were missing in past years.
"There’s no secret answer to what it is. We’ve demonstrated it, we’ll continue to demonstrate that the players, the club and the mentality is there," he explained. "It’s just about closing the loop on it and making it happen.”
Certainly one of the key offseason additions for the Timbers is veteran defender Nat Borchers from Real Salt Lake. For his part, Valeri was excited to add the MLS Cup winner.
“I was talking with him in [recent] days and he’s an experienced guy and he looks humble. He wants to work and he wants to fight for the team. That spirit is always good for the team. We need players like that.”